Acts of Radical Imagination 3: AΦE & A+E Lab
‘As trailblazers in our sector, we want to rethink live performances…our mission is to create high-quality productions and experiences that are not bound by a stage and artforms’
AΦE (AE) is a Medway/Kent (UK) based dance company founded by Aoi Nakamura (Japanese) and Esteban Lecoq (French). Their mission is to create high-quality productions and experiences that are not bound by a stage and their uniqueness lies in the use of technology to completely reinvent audience participation. They were the UK’s first dance company to tour internationally with VR and AR productions, touring to 15 counties, over 60 venues & engaging over 21 000 live audiences and participants.
In 2021, AΦE became Associate Artists of the Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (iCCi), University of Kent and moved into a building in the Historic Dockyard Chatham in March 2022.
Referred to as A+E Lab, they are aiming for this dance studio and residency space to produce innovative productions and to deliver creative & new technology events, workshops to professionals, members of the local community, and young people.
‘As trailblazers in our sector, we want to rethink live performances. To help us in this process, we have partnered with high end technology brands such as Epson and The Scalable Display who we are inviting into the dance world to push its boundaries. In only 5 years, we have managed to gather the support of some of the most prestigious venues around the world such as Sadler’s Wells, Chaillot Theatre National de la Danse Paris & Sydney Festival.’
‘ALT* represents the ALT key on a computer keyboard that is used to change the function of other keys, MED represents Medway and our wish to work with what already exists here and bring inspiration, excitement and playfulness into this historic building through creativity.’
ALT*MED sits within AΦE’s presentation platform, ALT*Festival curated by AΦE to invite world class artists to bring a new cultural experience into a town.
‘TAPE,’ was an incredible installation by the award-winning architectural collective Numen/For Use in the iconic No.3 Slip, a 185 year old grade 1 listed building in the Historic Dockyard Chatham over a six week period in the Spring.
For over a decade, Numen has utilised everyday objects to revisit their function while reinventing them into interior and architectural design, from blue tubes to adhesive tape,
taking inspiration from self-forming, emergent construction methods similar to the natural world.
TAPE in No.3 Slip invited the public to explore Numen’s gigantic cocoon-like tape structure, which took a team over ten days to build.
Audiences could just admire the structure floating in mid-air in 3 Slip from a distance, have a sneak peek by just popping their head inside or simply find a place inside the cocoon like structure to chill in while in mid-air. TAPE was enjoyed by 15 740 live audiences.
Elements of the tape structure have since been re-used and recreated to give it another life locally by Mess Room participants in their recent exhibition “An Exhibition of Gargoyles, Grotesques and Medieval Beasts” at Rochester Cathedral and to construct a sea monster for the Chatham Carnival parade and run creative participatory workshops with schools by Nucleus Arts with their resident artist Kerrie Owens.
OUR QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS:
What are your top tips for resilient and sustainable careers?
It might be a very basic answer but what has helped us is to be rigorous with ourselves, stay ambitious and persistent, keeping up the sense of urgency, and keep believing in ourselves and our project. As long as our minds are healthy (ups and down!) and not giving up, we will naturally look for the opportunities, meet people who would help achieve our vision which will lead to a resilient and sustainable career. We also always seek help, advice and support when something is out of our capacity. We stay humble and respectful to everyone and think over and over again how to achieve where we want to get to and work towards it at all times.
What is important to you about being based in Medway?
We always tour internationally, performing our work alongside so many inspiring works and artists. And we always told ourselves that the day we have our own space we would bring those artists to our local community. As we never had the chance so far to meet and share with our neighbours what we are up to.
We feel really proud to have first inspired Numen/For Use to come and create TAPE here and proud to present such a world-class artwork in Chatham for the community in Medway and the surrounding area.
We also love the idea of the local community becoming the experts, the best critics of artworks. The only way we see to make this possible is to bring challenging artworks here to Medway and have them experiencing it but doing so in a way that they also feel safe. Safe to think whatever they wish, with their own knowledge and experience. There is no right or wrong, at least, that is how we have been educated while growing as performers with great directors and creative practitioners in the studio.
What would you like Medway to look and feel like in 2030 and beyond?
We would like Medway to look and feel like a place with successful creative sectors, vibrant High Streets, high quality artwork and innovation everywhere in town and culture embedded within the community and enjoyed by them in 2030.
Find out more about AΦE:
Website: Aoi + Esteban
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A+E Lab Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aelab.uk/
AΦE Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/aoiesteban/
Join our discord community to reach us: https://discord.com/invite/HSKX8EGhMw
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